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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ho, Ho, Who?

This is a rerun from last Christmas that first appeared December 10, 2009--some of you may have missed this the first time:
 Maybe it's because I don't have small children anymore and my one grandchild is too young to know much about what's happening yet, but I'm starting to not believe in Santa. Okay, call me a humbug or a scrooge or grumpy old man if you like--I'm not really, but the Santa thing is somewhat disturbing to me at times. What hath we wrought? So today my question is:

Should we be perpetuating the Santa myth?

All of us in the United States and most other western civilization countries have grown up with a Santa awareness and many of us raised our own children with the Santa tradition. I have pictures of all of my children at various stages of their lives sitting on Santa's lap. I recall taking them to the old Miller and Rhodes Department Store (now faded into history) in downtown Richmond, Virginia for the top of the line "real" Santa with primo priced pictures. Other pictures are with dorky Santas at the nearby mall. But sure I did it. I told my kids there was a Santa and I guess they are none the worse for it. And I grew up with it and, sure my dreams were shattered, but I survived.

Let's be honest. Santa has become just another commercial scam artist lining his pockets with our hard-earned dough while we tell our kids that this kind hearted soul is going to bring them a bunch of material goods for them to get tired of after a few days. And who exactly is paying for all this?--certainly not Santa Claus. It's bad enough that our own kids don't give us credit for things we do for them and now we even have to give some bearded guy in a red suit credit for giving them all their presents at Christmas.

We weave a web of deceit trying to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus as we teach our kids unscientific principles such as Santa living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves and traveling throughout the entire world in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Even the kids start questioning the logistics of the whole operation. What do we do? We make up another story about how and why it all works. We know it's not true, but we tell our kids as though it is. If it's not true then it must be a lie. We have to lie in order to keep the myth of Santa alive in their little minds.

And what about the stress we must be causing our children? As they hear about the current global warming conference and all of the threats to the polar regions, surely the kids must be starting to get worried sick about Santa's habitat and how the lives of all the elves and reindeer must be threatened to extinction which would mean that one day there would be no one to distribute material possessions to all of the world's children on Christmas eve.

Karl Marx, famed communist
and Santa impersonator

I do believe that this Santa story instills greed in the hearts of our kids. I wonder if any study has been done to correlate the rise in consumerism to the intensified promotion of the Santa myth. It may well be that we could actually blame Santa on the current financial problems. Maybe that's the real origin of the phrase "in the red". What's with this guy wearing red anyway and going around with a beard that makes him look a tad like Karl Marx? Maybe the government should checking into the whole Santa conspiracy.

On the other hand, the man and his story is a beloved tradition. Think of all those happy Santa songs we start hearing at this time of year--don't they just brighten your mood? Or the beloved "twas the night before Christmas" poem when the family is visited by jolly old St. Nick (oh-oh Old Nick is another name for Satan-- but let's not go there). All of the familiar Santa imagery festively festoons our yards, cards, and fireplace mantles. There's not much more smile inducing as a big red plastic Santa with ligthts inside to make it glow happily at night. We can't let go of Santa, he's been around for generations.

Economically speaking the Santa tradition helps move the money around. Christmas spending is one of the most important economic drivers of the year. However, let's put aside the entire gift giving thing since that could easily happen without the existence of Santa Claus. Let's just talk about the Santa character. First of all there are the Santa costumes and all of the accessories that go with it including the Karl Marx beard. This is not an insubstantial industry and is related to the Halloween costume industry (see my many posts on Halloween in September and October of 2009).

Also, there are the Santa players themselves (they must number in the thousands)--these guys are playing a gig that helps them put food on the table and pay a few bills. It all adds to the economy. I could go on and on about the economic influences but that would take far too long. Let's just say that if Santa were a real person who owned a license on his name and image, he'd be a gazillionaire.

I guess the real case for Santa is the magic of the character. When you see the wonderment in a child's eyes as they see Santa and dream of Santa's Christmas eve visit, it's heartwarming. In their innocence they are not thinking greed, they are thinking sugar plum fairies and Red Ryder air rifles ("you'll shoot your eye out"). It's dreams and imaginations and a time of our lives that lasts for a few fleeting years. It is magic that is real and imaginary characters that live for a time in our lives and live on later in our hearts and minds. Is Santa a lie? When we read a novel or any fiction, it's not real--is it a lie?

So I leave it to you. I've tossed out a few ideas to you. What's your opinion of Santa Claus? What do you tell or have you told your children? Is the myth harmful? Is there another way you would like to see the Christmas season handled?

Oh, and by the way, have a very Merry Christmas!


  1. For my family, Santa is the guy bringing presents, but Christmas isn't a time of greed.

    We make a point of letting the children in our family know what Christmas is really about.

    Merry Christmas to you too.


  2. I have mixed views on the Santa issue. When my three were young we used to take them to see santa in his grotto at the local store where they would sit on his knee, tell him what they would like for Christmas and he would give them a small gift. The look of wonder in their eyes was a joy to behold. Now in this world of uncertainty we tell our children not to speak to strangers or take sweets or gifts yet we encourage all that at christmas......It's a strange world.

    Have a great day Lee.

  3. My opinion that I usually keep to myself unless asked is that the myth is a bad myth. It takes many attributes of God and transfers them to this mythical being - omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. It also teaches children the wrong reason for "being good," where all things come from, and even thoughts about sovereignty. Nows these terms and definitions are far from a child's minds, but the concepts are there.

    Children should be taught from a very early age that there is only one God, what it means to offend that God, how to maintain a relationship with God, to look to God for all things, and to be thankful to God for all things.

    We started Santa with the older two but by the time the younger two had come we abandoned the myth and told the kids the truth as soon as they began asking and commenting.

  4. when I was a kid I was never told that Santa exists, and my whole childhood was pretty much wrapped up in reality and not magic. I feel sorry for that because I feel my childhood was stolen in a way from me. I believe kids need to grow up with magic, with festive warmth, with spellbinding myths because that way they will have lovely, cozy childhoods and will grow up to be creative and imaginative people.

  5. i loved this arlee bird, i'm sorta hashing this out, albeit late since my kids are 5 and 3. we haven't made such a big deal about it, but as we've done our regular Christmas stuff, we've been bombarded by the push to believe in Santa ad infinitum. honestly, it really is beginning to bother me. How folks can push and push and push for folks to believe in Santa who offers little in the way of peace and less in the way of life. Yet, Jesus, God's gift to humanity comes without a monetary price tag, offering life and that more abundantly.

    Thanks for your post. Merry Christmas to you.

  6. I don't have children to pass the Santa myth onto, but I guess I do miss the mystery of it all. As children Christmas was a special time, but nowdays kids get so much everyday Christmas isn't special anymore.

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. My children were always told Santa was not impressed with greedy children. Being greedy was a sure way of ending up on the naughty list.

    It is the magic of Christmas. The sheer joy on their faces that was heartwarming for me.

  8. Oh, so what?! For a few short years kids get to believe in a little magic and wonder and a castle and a toy workshop at the North Pole. Real life will mess with them soon enough, why can't we just let kids be kids and play in their imaginary world for those precious few years of innocent childhood?

    I believed in Santa when I was little. Later, I was told the truth and I did not experience any catastrophic mental breakdown over it, and in the end, I think I turned out to be a fairly decent, well-adjusted adult.

    Some people just take their "seriousness" waaay too flippin' seriously. GROW UP and let the children be children for a little while. The reality of "This World" will come crashing down on them quick enough.

    I believe in God and Christ as much as does anyone else here, but for crying-out-loud, let the children play. Let them believe in the magic of Saint Nick for a few years, let them dress up like a pirate or a clown and go trick-or-treating one night a year. Is that really so awful?!

    Sheesh! There are some persons here who are definitely not going to be invited to my next party! It's OK to believe in G-O-D and F-U-N.

    I can hardly believe the question, let alone some of the responses. And I'm sure glad my parents - may they rest in peace - allowed me to play in my imaginary world for awhile. Getting the opportunity to be a child was one of the very best parts of my "childhood".

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  9. Having watched my daughter make painstakingly challenging gifts for her friends with a smile on her face, I'll have to say that Santa's influence couldn't have been all bad. Merry Christmas Lee.

  10. Next you're going to tell me the Easter Bunny doesn't exist, either!

  11. I enjoyed reading the different perceptions of Santa in both your blog & via the readers' comments.

    I think it's nice for a kid to believe in Santa. But I also recall a wise young neighbor wondering about how there were so many different Santa Clauses in malls across SoCa!

  12. I think Santa stays! Consumerism is fostered more by commercials than anything else.

  13. Well... However you roll - Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless your Christmas Arlee and fill you and your family with that joy that passes all understanding.

  14. Very interesting discussion and article.

  15. I can go either way on this one Arlee. My mother stuffed our stockings with the most amazing things. That was special. And I do remember my childrens young faces when they saw that Santa had been to the house and eaten the cookies and drank the milk that was left for him. I don't think that it would have made a difference had Santa never been thought of. But alas he was, so the myth of Santa continues on. So A happy HO,Ho, Ho to you! Love Di ♥

  16. We let our kids believe in Santa for a while but they figured it out rather quickly on their own. But we still have fun with it anyway and fill out presents with "FROM SANTA." Have a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year !

  17. I gotta disagree with the humbugs here.

    Children are shoved into the grim reality of this world at all too young an age, and the years where they are believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, they are truly innocent.

    I was raised to belive in Christ and was allowed six years or so to belive in Santa (my older brothers broke the news to me).

    And the comment that Saint Nicholas was the devil? Where does that come from. Saint Nick was revered by many countries, and was a favorite saint of seagoing men. The tradition of Saint Nicholas day, and his reputation as a bringer of gifts, is the root of the Santa Claus persona. No demon there.

    If you have children who belive in Santa, enjoy it while you can. You can still teach them to belive in Christ.

    All too soon they're going to be believing in Lady GaGa and Jay-Z. And you're going to wish for the innocent years back.

    I never had kids and I know this.

    Now my assignment to everyone who posted a comment is to go play "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen at MAXIMUM VOLUME, and sing along in your deepest voice when Clarence gets the mike!

  18. I read past Ann's comment on my first pass, but she captures what I'm trying to say in just a few words.

    "It is the magic of Christmas. The sheer joy on their faces... "

    Give them those years...they'll never be that innocent again.

  19. Thanks to all for the wonderful comments and a Merry Christmas. I will attempt to respond to each comment as long as this hotel computer will allow me.

    Misha-- Sounds like the way it should be.

    Yvonne-- It is indeed a paradox.

    Gregg -- You make a good point. Santa should never be confused with God and if we are going to play the Santa game we should make the distinction between Santa and God very clear.

    Dezmond-- It is nice for kids to be able to be kids for that short time of their life. Magic can be fun.

    Jeanice -- Nice to hear from you. You've made a very good point.

  20. Mason -- I agree. Old St Nick ain't what he used to be.

    Ann -- Lovely point.

    StMc--I think everyone has made a good point and so have you. Childhood is so fleeting and it should be a wondrous time for all of us.

    Liza -- thank you for this beautiful thought. Merry Christmas to you as well.

    Alex -- I won't be the one to burst your bubble.

    Lisa -- My mother used to always explain to me that they were all Santa's helpers. That made sense to me!

    Paula -- I think you're right!

    Deb -- Thank you! And the same sentiments headed your way.

    M Pax -- Thanks for stopping.

  21. Diana -- That's the way I grew up and I shared the same with my kids.

    Stephen Tremp -- Same here. It's all in fun to play along.

    Larry -- I'm with you on what you say. Well, all except the Springsteen version of "Comin' to Town" --never cared for it and still don't. I prefer the songs and carols that celebrate Jesus. The other stuff is mostly commercial hoohaw-- that's my opinion at least.

  22. Lee-

    While I can't argue on the sheer commercialism of the non-Christian songs, the sound of Clarence Clemons sing "you better be good for goodness sake" is simply too good to pass up!

    Did I misread you-were you making a connection between Santa Claus and the Devil ("Old Nick is another name for Satan")?


  23. Larry --- Much of what I said here was for the sake of debate done almost with an extremist tongue in cheek. I just like to see how far I can take things sometimes.


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